More hurdles for Shell’s Arctic drilling plans

  • Exploration & Production
Polar Pioneer (Image source: Statoil)
Polar Pioneer (Image source: Statoil)

While Shell may have received a conditional approval by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska, it has yet to skip a Port of Seattle hurdle.

Namely, the company may not be able to dock its two Arctic-bound drilling rigs in the Port’s Terminal 5 as previously planned, as the Seattle city council this week unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Port of Seattle to reconsider its lease at Terminal 5 to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling rigs.

“The action also officially put the City of Seattle on record in opposing federal permits and leases relating to Arctic drilling,” the council said in a statement.

“Maintaining a healthy working waterfront and maritime economy are essential for Seattle’s long-term success.  But we can achieve that without contributing to the catastrophic and irreversible impacts to our climate that Arctic drilling represents,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, the legislation’s sponsor. “I am willing and able to sit down with the Port to identify alternative operations at Terminal 5 that would better serve Puget Sound residents.”

On Feb. 9 2015, the Port of Seattle entered into a lease agreement for use of Terminal 5 with Foss Maritime, a local company whose customer at the terminal is Shell, which plans to use the facility for moorage and cargo activities involving drilling rigs planned to drill in oil explorations in the Arctic.

On May 9, the Council and Mayor Murray asked the Department of Planning & Development (DPD) to investigate terms of the Shoreline Master Permit that the City issued the Port in 1996 allowing certain operations to occur at Terminal 5. DPD found that repairing and mooring Shell Oil’s rigs at Terminal 5 was inconsistent with the existing shoreline permit for container operations. Foss Maritime has appealed DPD’s ruling.

Port seeks delays


Additionally, the Port of Seattle Commission has reportedly yesterday asked for the rigs’ arrival to be delayed pending further legal review.

While it sought for a delay, the port also appealed the City of Seattle’s ruling that Terminal 5 cannot be used to host drilling rigs.

Stephanie Bowman, the Port of Seattle Commission Co-President said: “The Port of Seattle Commission voted today to appeal the City of Seattle’s interpretation of the cargo use at Terminal 5. An appeal hearing provides a legal, structured format that acknowledges the seriousness of our concerns about changing long-standing permit requirements, and should not be viewed as hostile to the City of Seattle” said Port Commission Co-President Stephanie Bowman.

“We expect that this will also provide a fair and objective opportunity for all affected parties to participate. We will work with the City of Seattle to define ‘cargo,’ as maritime businesses need that certainty.”

As for the Port’s call to delay the arrival of a drilling rig to the Terminal 5, Seattle mayor Ed Murray said: “I commend the Port Commission for deciding that the arrival of an off-shore drilling rig should be delayed until the proper permits are in place. I now hope Shell will respect the wishes of the Port, the City and the community at large, and not bring an off-shore drilling rig into Elliott Bay.”

Meanwhile, the semi-submersible drilling rig Polar Pioneer, to be used for drilling off Alaska, has been moored in the Port of Angeles for a month now, waiting for the situation with the Terminal 5 to be resolved.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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